We’ve heard the stories of the dog who stole the Thanksgiving turkey, or the cat who licked all the cream off the pie. Who can blame them? That’s exactly what we plan to do. But, in addition to potentially spoiling the holiday dinner, some of those foods can be dangerous to your pets and you want to save all the human food for your guests.

So, how do you include your pets in the celebration while keeping them safe?

Here are just a few suggestions:

Lessen the excitement. Some pets get super excited by all of the added activity at the holidays. Before your guests arrive, make sure that your pets have already gotten plenty of exercise and play time. That may help them stay a little calmer once the festivities begin.

Limit temptation by limiting access. Do what you can to keep your pets out of the kitchen. They can’t eat what they can’t get. If you can’t block access, keep food off of the counters, or put covers on everything. This is true after dinner as well. Make sure you throw away any garbage, seal the bag tight, and put it outside in a sealed trash can (protect those outdoor animals as well).

Provide an alternative for your guests to share. Have high value treats on hand for you and your guests to give the pets. Good dog treats, or bits of hot dog or cooked (unseasoned) chicken work well. Explain to your guests that you would prefer they not give table food, but they can give the occasional special treat instead. Make sure they’re cut up small so that they can get a lot in one day without getting sick.

Remove the temptation. If your pets are bothering your guests during dinner, or won’t leave you alone in the kitchen, consider putting them in a different room for a while. Give them a frozen Kong filled with peanut butter so that they’ll have something to keep them busy while you eat.

Give them space. For some pets, the hustle and bustle of a holiday gathering can be very stressful. Consider giving your pets a safe space to escape to that guests will not enter (a bedroom or bathroom in a separate area of the home). If they choose to spend the day in there do not push them to join the festivities, simply let them do what makes them most comfortable!

Have a sense of humor. No holiday is ever perfect. The most important thing is to spend time with the family, and that includes your pet family, too.